Curator's choice - artefacts


Section of lead water pipe, Coombe Springs to Hampton Court

lead water pipeThis is a cross-section of the three-inch diameter lead water pipe that carried a supply of drinking water from Coombe Springs to Hampton Court Palace when first built by Cardinal Wolsey (c.1473-1530) in 1515, and subsequently occupied by Henry VIII (b. 1491 r. 1509-47).  At this early period, domestic water supply of such sophistication was unheard of outside royal circles and the monasteries and illustrated the wealth and status of the owner.

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Keystone from a bridge over the river Wandle 1792

keyston from Wandle bridgeKeystone of Lambeth coade stone, from the dismantled bridge over the river Wandle that connected the two parts of William Morris’s works. It is thought to date from 1792, when the site was occupied by two calico printing mills – Messrs. Newton, Hodgson and Leach and Mr. Halfhide’s. Coade stone was artificially made to a secret formula which is now lost. The face of the stone is sculptured with a bas-relief of the head of Jupiter, the Roman god of state religion, also called Jove, and originally a sky god associated with thunder and lightning. The head may, however, represent Jupiter Pluvius, the Roman god of rain, perhaps as an evocation to the life source of the river.

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Medal of Sir Francis Burdett (1770-1844) 1810

medalThe obverse of this 48mm diameter bronze medal is inscribed, ‘THE INTREPID CHAMPION OF FREEDOM, THE ENLIGHTENED ADVOCATE OF THE RIGHTS & LIBERTIES OF THE PEOPLE.’ No small accolade and a justified epithet for the principled aristocratic English reformist politician, Francis Burdett, a true Radical, who became something of a national hero in the struggle for parliamentary reform and the upholding of the people’s personal rights and liberties in the early years of the nineteenth century. 

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Joseph Toynbee memorial plaque 1868

joseph tonybee memorial plaqueThis is the original 1868 metal plaque from the drinking fountain at the top of Hill Road, commemorating the good works of Joseph Toynbee. The plaque disappeared from the fountain sometime before 1925 and the current replacement was eventually installed by the Council in the early 1960s. Then, in May 1977, the original was discovered in the front garden of 60 Church Road.

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Lawn tennis racquet with lop-sided head, c.1875-c.1890

tennis raquetWimbledon is known all over the world as the home of lawn tennis. This very early racquet, with its long handle and small tilted head, is very similar to the type used by Spencer Gore and William Marshall in the very first Wimbledon tennis finals in 1877. Many of these early players had gained their experience from Rackets and Real Tennis, in which the racquet had a lop-sided head and was sometimes double-strung. This example has single cat gut stringing through a frame made of ash. Ash was particularly good for bending round in one piece after steaming. A large serif letter ‘W’ has been applied on the filler at the top of the handle.

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National Rifle Association 1860-1889 commemorative teapot c.1890

commemorative teapotCeramic teapot commemorating the 29 years of annual meetings of the National Rifle Association on Wimbledon Common, from 1860 to 1889. The rectangular-shaped pot has fluted column corners and gilt line adornment. It is unmarked, and was probably produced in quite large numbers due to the technology of on-glaze transfer printing, of which this is an example. Such souvenirs were sold at fairs and market stalls and bought on impulse to remember an event.

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Suffragette banner 1909

suffragette bannerWimbledon had its own branch of militant suffragettes led by a local heroine, Rose Lamartine Yates, who lived at Dorset Hall on the Kingston Road. Rose had already suffered one month in prison earlier in 1909, after the Caxton Hall to Westminster deputation to ask Asquith why women’s suffrage had been left out of the King’s speech, turned nasty. This banner, designed by Dr. Frank Bather and made by the membership of the Wimbledon Women’s Social and Political Union, was carried aloft by Rose and her supporters on the 29th June ‘Bill of Rights’ deputation to Parliament, led by Emmeline Pankhurst, claiming it was the right of the subject to petition the King. It was rejected and the event turned ugly, with women smashing the windows of government offices. There were 108 arrests, including Marion Wallace Dunlop, the first of many hunger-strikers.

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Ceremonial silver trowel

silver trowelCeremonial silver trowel presented to Alderman Shirl Mussell on the occasion of laying the foundation stone of Wimbledon’s new Town Hall, 1930.

At the time Wimbledon’s first Town Hall was built in 1878, the population of the suburb was just 15,000. Over the next fifty years, Wimbledon swelled its population fourfold to around 60,000. The old Town Hall was about the size of a large double-fronted house and by the late 1920s was woefully inadequate. In 1929 it was demolished and a new larger Town Hall built on the site (this is the building now occupied by Tesco supermarket).

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William Wilberforce plaque from Lauriston House 1950s

william wilberforce plaqueWilberforce came to live with his childless uncle, William, and aunt, Hannah, in Lauriston House (originally called Laurel Grove) on Southside, after his father died in 1768. The house had been built in 1724. Young William lived there for four years, until his mother recalled him to Hull. When his uncle died in 1777, he left Lauriston House to William, who used it as a country retreat when he became MP for Hull in 1781. William Pitt, a close friend, stayed in the house on many occasions.

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Eddie Reynolds football shirt 1963

eddie reynolds football shirtThe origins of Wimbledon FC can be traced back to 1889, when Wimbledon Old Centrals played their matches on Wimbledon Common. Seven years later they won their first trophy – the Clapham League title in 1896. In May, 1905, Wimbledon Old Centrals became Wimbledon Football Club and moved to Plough Lane in 1912, joining the Athenian League seven years later in 1919. In 1921 Wimbledon joined the Isthmian League (now the Ryman League) and first won the Championship in 1931. Wimbledon lost at two shots at the FA Amateur Cup Final, in 1935 and 1947, but finally managed to get their hands on the trophy in a glorious 4-2 victory over Sutton United at Wembley on 4th May, 1963, in front of 45,000 people.

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